A few weeks ago, King’s coach Jeff Knarr’s motivational tool to his team could have been telling the players that they’re not expected to beat MAC powers Delaware Valley and Lycoming.
Wins over those two teams have changed that approach. Now, the Monarchs are being noticed — and may even be favored — in today’s contest against defending conference champion Widener at 1 p.m. in Chester.
“We don’t touch on that anymore,” the coach said about taking on an underdog role. “Now it’s that if we (win), people are going to start to whisper about you. And if you want them to start talking about you, you gotta continue to do what you’re doing. You don’t go out get a big win and that’s your diamond for the year. You still go out and have games to go. Our kids understand that, have bought into that and are working just as hard as they did last week because they know Widener is just as good as Lycoming and DelVal.”
The Monarchs and the Pride have identical records of 5-3 overall and 5-2 in the MAC. They are both tied for second in the conference, one game behind Lebanon Valley, which is 6-1. That means today’s game is essentially a playoff game, since the winner will still be in the hunt for the league championship and the loser is likely eliminated.
That’s a vast improvement for King’s, which began the season with three straight losses before winning five in a row. The Monarchs are in this position this late in the season for the first time since it won the MAC title in 2002. The five-game winning streak is tied for the second-longest in program history behind seven in a row in ‘02.
“They know it’s a playoff game. We don’t harp on it. We just tell them to continue to do what you’re doing,” Knarr said. “We don’t control our own destiny but we can control what we can control, (that’s) to try to beat Widener which gives us the tiebreaker with them. And sets it up that if LebVal stubs its toe, we get a piece of the title.”
Although it has three losses and the quick offense is run by a freshman quarterback, Widener is still a force in the conference. Seth Klein, the team’s signal-caller leads the MAC in passing yards (2,278), completion percentage (78.1) and is tied with the Monarchs’ Tyler Hartranft for the most TD passes in the conference with 13.
Klein and the offense are helped by playmaking wide receiver Anthony Davis. If it wasn’t for King’s wideout Dan Kempa, Davis would be the top receiver in nearly every category in the MAC. Davis is second in yards, touchdowns and yards per game to Kempa. His 76 receptions are far more than any other wideout in the MAC, as are his 9.5 receptions per game.
“Anthony Davis is going to make plays. We just can’t let him make those highlight type plays,” Knarr added. “We’ll give him his 10 catches for seven-something yards a catch…just not giving him the big plays.”
King’s (5-3 overall, 5-2 MAC)
at Widener (5-3 overall, 5-2 MAC)
When: 1 p.m. today at Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium, Chester
Last Week: The Monarchs won in dramatic fashion knocking off Lycoming, 28-24 on a touchdown with 9 seconds left. Widener meanwhile, fell to Albright, 33-19.
Last meeting: Widener won last year, 41-6.
King’s player to watch: Junior Dan Kempa is nearing historical figures. The wide receiver is 106 yards shy of breaking the school-record for receiving yards in a season (993) and is just nine receptions away from breaking the mark of 57 catches in one season. He is averaging 111.0 yards per game and 6.1 receptions per game.
Widener player to watch: Sticking with the wide receiver theme, Pride wideout Anthony Davis is very dynamic. He’s second in the MAC to Kempa in yards (871), yards per game (108.9) and touchdowns (7), but leads the MAC with 76 receptions, the most in a season in school history.
Monarchs’ team leaders: RB Kyle McGrath 565 yards, 8 TDs; QB Tyler Hartranft 1,677 yards, 13 TDs (leads MAC), 7 interceptions.; WR Dan Kempa 49 receptions, 888 yards (leads MAC), 8 TDs (leads MAC); LB Nick Kaijala 61 tackles; LB Chad Curtice 5 sacks; DB Anthony Martuccio 2 interceptions.
Pride’s team leaders: RB Couve LaFate 349 yards, 3 TDs; QB Seth Klein 2,278 yards (leads MAC), 13 TDs (leads MAC), 6 interceptions; WR Anthony Davis 76 receptions (leads MAC), 871 yards, 7 TDs; DE Brandon Harper 57 tackles; LB Dylan Ditmer 3 sacks; DB Colin Masterson 2 interceptions.
King’s will win if …The defense can rattle quarterback Klein, force the freshman to make mistakes and get after him. In Widener’s three losses, it has given up 23 sacks to opposing defenses, including 10 last week to Albright. In their wins, the Pride have only allowed 13 total sacks.
Widener will win if …It can slow down King’s quarterback Hartranft and his weapons. Widener is allowing the second-most passing yards in the MAC (228.4 per game), while Hartranft is tied for the league lead with 13 passing touchdowns.
What to know: King’s has been winning dramatically recently and today may be another one. That’s because the Pride are outscoring opponents in every quarter except the fourth, when they have given up 50 points and scored 39.